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Bonsai Design Techniques

with Colin Lewis
Bonsai Design Techniques
Advance your bonsai skills! Join bonsai artist Colin Lewis, and transform your tree — from subtle shaping to dramatic character changes.

Create exciting, original bonsai with advanced design techniques! Join renowned bonsai artist and author Colin Lewis, and explore bonsai as a true art form. Begin by developing an eye for design by sketching trunks and canopies. Then learn the best way to shape branches while leaving little evidence of human interaction. You’ll work with junipers, “the queens of bonsai,’’ and find out how to develop shari and live veins. Moving on, expertly deal with deadwood and shape jins before learning how to use fire to bend your jin into new positions, or age jins to achieve a mature look. Plus, uncover Colin’s secret method for heavy engineering with the wedge principle, and successfully compose and shape new branch structures. To round out your new skills, prepare your bonsai for final shaping and enjoy how the final touches transform your tree’s image.

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Lesson plan


Lesson 1. Introduction to Bonsai

  • Join your instructor, world-renowned bonsai artist Colin Lewis, for an exhilarating exploration of bonsai design. Tap into the striking poetry of this age-old tradition as Colin shares the history of various designs from around the world, highlighting a variety of aesthetics, emotions and philosophies as he goes. You’ll finish the lesson feeling inspired and ready to assess a variety of trees for their future potential.


Lesson 2. Leave No Trace Behind

  • Discover Colin’s professional and ingenious secrets for hiding traces of human intervention on branches, trunks and roots. You’ll also learn how to use guy wires and toggles to bend branches into the position that you want, applying consistent pressure and creating the fewest cuts in your branches as possible.


Lesson 3. Junipers

  • Colin turns your focus to juniper trees, which have special qualities that lend themselves beautifully to the art of bonsai. You’ll learn masterful methods for creating a jin – a sculptural, exposed branch that’s been stripped of bark– using a variety of time-tested tools. Colin also shows you how to safely and effectively develop shari, which are areas of deadwood on the trunk.


Lesson 4. Dealing With Deadwood

  • Explore the art of deadwood further as Colin demonstrates a variety of methods for shaping jins. Harness the primitive art of fire to shape jins to your liking, and learn how techniques such as twisting, bending and applying lime sulfur can ensure a jin that rivals the form of branches twisted by wind or raging rivers.


Lesson 5. Death-Defying Techniques

  • Experiment with hair-raising techniques as Colin helps you muster the courage, preparation and patience required to significantly cut into your bonsai in order to create dramatic bends. You’ll learn how to apply geometry before cutting and securing large branches to create bends. Colin demonstrates how to avoid breaking the wood, and shares the best practices for securing your wires and helping the branches heal.


Lesson 6. Composing Branch Structure

  • Branch structure is a complex and fascinating topic, and understanding it plays a crucial role in bonsai design. Learn more about branch structures and the canopies they create as you learn how to shape, prune and care for branches of all types.


Lesson 7. Final Refinement

  • Put all of your new skills to work as you put refining touches on your tree. You’ll prepare for the final shaping of your design before learning how to wrap branches in raffia and heavy wiring. Working branch to branch, you’ll fine-tune branch positions before utilizing Colin’s final tips for positioning and trimming the foliage.

“Cannot thank you enough! I love, love, love ... the assortment of classes, as well as the fact that I can watch the lessons at my own pace, the instructions, the ability to write myself notes, etc. I also love the fact that the classes are for life! Thank you again for such a fantastic and wonderful site for just about everything I love to do!”
Sierra Foothills, CA

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